Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19)

What does the Spirit of Jesus Christ mean? Why does Paul use this term instead of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God? Why the Spirit of Jesus Christ? The Spirit is mentioned first as the Spirit of God, in relation to creation (Gen. 1:2). Then, He is mentioned as the Spirit of Jehovah, in the context of God's relationship with man (Judges 3:10; 1 Sam. 10:6); as the Holy Spirit, in relation to the conception and birth of Christ (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:20); as the Spirit of Jesus, in relation to the Lord's human living (Acts 16:7); as the Spirit of Christ, in relation to the Lord's resurrection (Rom. 8:9); and here as the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 

The Spirit of Jesus Christ is the Spirit mentioned in John 7:39. This is not merely the Spirit of God before the Lord's incarnation but the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, after the Lord's resurrection, compounded with the Lord's incarnation (humanity), human life under the cross, crucifixion, and resurrection. The holy anointing ointment in Exodus 30:23-25, a compound of olive oil and four kinds of spices, is a full type of this compound Spirit of God, who is now the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Here in Philippians 1:19, it is not the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) or the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) but the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is related mainly to the Lord's humanity, the Spirit of Christ is related mainly to the Lord's resurrection. To experience the Lord's humanity, as illustrated in 2:5-8, we need the Spirit of Jesus. To experience the power of the Lord's resurrection, as mentioned in 3:10, we need the Spirit of Christ. In his suffering the apostle experienced both the Lord's suffering in His humanity and the Lord's resurrection. Hence, the Spirit to him was the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the compound, all-inclusive, life-giving Spirit of the Triune God. Such a Spirit has, and even is, the bountiful supply for a person like the apostle, who was experiencing and enjoying Christ in His human living and resurrection. 

In studying Scripture context is everything! Looking at the context of the letter to the saints at Philippi, we know from chapter four that one of the very reasons Paul wrote this letter was because there existed among them those that were not getting along. Paul reminds them that he too faced difficulties even with other professing Christians who were preaching Christ with wrong motives. He goes on to share with them that the way we get through such difficult experiences and circumstances is through the prayers of the saints and through the provision of the Spirit. God does not leave us alone, but has provided for us in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This provision (epicorhgia / epichorLgia) is "to supply fully, abundantly" (Vines) and therefore lack in nothing. Paul put it this way in Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" God is not a distant and removed Creator, but is intimately involved in our lives as our loving Father.

Paul is speaking of the ministry of the Holy Spirit here and emphasizes the relationship of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. In John 14-16 the Lord Jesus told His disciples that He would send another Helper, "the Spirit of truth," who would abide in them forever, and who would glorify Jesus and guide them into all truth.

The Holy Spirit continues the same ministry in true Christians today. He is still the one that teaches believers about all things (1 John 2:27). Without the Holy Spirit's work in your hearts and minds, we would not be able to do anything for the glory of God! When the truth of God's Word is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit takes that truth and applies it in our lives in convicting us of sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16:8-10). It is the Holy Spirit that quickens a person born dead in their trespasses and sin and makes them spiritually alive (Col. 2:13, 1 Pet. 3:18) and baptizes us into the one body of Christ, the church (1 Cor. 12:13). The gifts, ministries and effects of these things given to us by God are the manifestations of the Spirit for the common good of the whole body (1 Cor. 12:4-7).

Paul did not underestimate the importance of the Spirit of Jesus Christ at work in him in the midst of his circumstances, and neither should we. Paul was confident in the midst of his circumstances because he knew he could trust the Holy Spirit to accomplish His work in him, molding him and making him more like the Lord Jesus Christ. This confidence gave Paul an earnest expectation and hope for the future as he responded to his situation. And it would no doubt have an impact on the saints their in Philippi. 

Paul mentions the Spirit at least two more times in Philippians. In chapter 2:1 he speaks of the fellowship of the Spirit and in chapter 3:3 he mentions worshiping God in the Spirit. I believe the order these three references are found in is extremely important. If we are not living in complete dependence as Paul was, dependent in prayer and on the provision (supply) of the Spirit of Jesus Christ we can not expect to be able to deal with difficulties the way Paul did. He was able to trust God through difficult circumstances because he yielded himself allowing the Spirit of God to conform him to be more like the Lord Jesus. Only then will we be able to appreciate the fellowship of the Spirit. In regards to this Paul sets before them the proper attitudes that enhance relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul knew that there is a difference between unity and uniformity. Unity is something that only God can form as Ephesian 2 teaches. But we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. How do we do that? It begins in the heart of each one of us! I think that is why Paul prefaces Ephesian 4:3 with verses 1 and 2, "I therefore a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long suffering, bearing with one another in love.." Paul knew that true spiritual unity comes from within, it is a matter of my heart. Uniformity is a result of pressure from without, but when I have been affected and changed by the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the ground work in my heart has been set. Then in chapter three he reminds them that their worship is not one of ritual and law, but is to be in the Spirit of God. So he begins inward, challenging us to allow the Spirit of Jesus Christ to make us more like Christ and this affects our outward fellowship of the Spirit with others. Our inward condition affects our outward relations, which impacts our upward worship.

God's ultimate purpose for each one of us is to conform us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). He desires to have many sons in glory! But right now in the midst of all the problems and difficulties we face personally and collectively in local assemblies the Lord desires you and me to be transformed (changed from the inside out) into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). You and I are to bear the image of Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Spirit of God. As we look into the mirror of God's Word and see God's Son, the Spirit transforms us into His very image. This change begins inwardly as I allow the Spirit of Jesus Christ to supply all that is needed. May we be willing to empty ourselves, our pride, our self will and anything else that might be hindering Him from supplying what is needed. May we be like David of old and be willing to say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24).

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